Magazine article Screen International

Park Chan-Wook, Stoker

Magazine article Screen International

Park Chan-Wook, Stoker

Article excerpt

Park Chan-wook talks to Jean Noh about adapting to Hollywood and bringing his unique style to his first English-language film.

After directing films such as Oldboy and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, Korean film-maker Park Chan-wook had been fielding offers from Hollywood for years. He finally took the leap with Stoker, his first English-language film. The thriller, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, made its well-received world premiere at Sundance and screened as the closing film in Rotterdam.

Originally written by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, Stoker was on the 2010 Black List of best unproduced Hollywood screenplays. Park says he initially favoured it for his first English-language film because of its approach to dialogue.

"It wasn't a film centred on dialogue and there were a lot of parts that were expressed without words," he says, noting he enjoys expressing things visually and with sounds other than words.

"Wentworth's script was good because there was a lot of space a director could fill in. It was a script that had the potential to come out in different versions, depending on whether Ridley Scott or Bong Joon-ho had made it. There was plenty of room for me to breathe life into it," says Park.

The film centres around India (Wasikowska) whose father dies as she turns 18. A mysterious uncle (Goode) returns for the funeral and a triangle fraught with tension forms between India, her uncle and her mother (Kidman).

Describing Stoker as a thriller with aspects of horror and romance, Park says: "I was interested in girls' coming-of-age stories - as with I'm A Cyborg But That's OK. I liked that the story had few characters so we could observe them more closely, not just superficially. I look for density in my films."

Ridley Scott, the late Tony Scott and Michael Costigan produced the film for Fox Searchlight Pictures, Indian Paintbrush and Scott Free. Fox is distributing Stoker, which opens on February 28 in South Korea and March 1 in North America and the UK.

Scott Free sent the screenplay to Park's manager Sara Bottfeld at Industry Entertainment, and the director immediately liked the script.

"I had a long session with Wentworth discussing the film, and then went and rewrote it several times," says Park. He had the Stoker screenplay translated into Korean, worked on it and had it translated back into English with him editing the translation line by line with his producer Wonjo Jeong to make sure everything was accurate.

When it came to actual production, Park had to learn to shoot fast again for Hollywood. "Working as a well-known director in the Korean film industry, with increasingly abundant resources, I had started getting slower at shooting. It was good because I could do everything carefully and elaborately. I had nearly 100 shooting days on Thirst. And then I was faced with 40 days for Stoker. It was disconcerting at first, but then I remembered I shot my debut feature in 30 days," he says.

Oldboy in a new town

Even though he adapted quickly, Park did worry about the results. "In Korea, I'd be able to watch playbacks of each take on the monitors and only give the OK when there was really no problem. I edited on set to make sure there wasn't anything lacking and to make sure shot A connected smoothly to shot B. But in the US there wasn't any time for playbacks, and certainly none for editing on location," he says. "Fortunately, in the end we didn't have any of the problems I worried about."

What was it like working with Hollywood actors? …

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